F1: Monaco Grand Prix Surprises


F1’s The Jewel in the Crown for occurs this weekend, as the teams take to the streets for the Monaco Grand Prix.

On current evidence, the championship battle looks set to be a one-team scrap. Ferrari’s seemingly lack of pace, development upgrades and strategical decisions have played a major part in Mercedes making history.

The German marque have become the first team to record five consecutive 1-2 finishes at the start of any season in the championship’s 69-year history.

However, Monaco can always produce surprises and strange results can occur which go against the typical form of the season.

Today, I go through the archives of the past 30 years and pick some eye-catching results where the unexpected occurred in the principality.

Jean Alesi – 1990 Monaco Grand Prix

The Tyrrell 019 of Jean Alesi on the approach to Mirabeau during the 1990 Monaco Grand Prix. Image sourced from @1990sF1 via Twitter.

Jean Alesi had already shown his star quality from his Grand Prix debut. In the 1989 French Grand Prix, Alesi had driven an under-powered Tyrrell to a respectable fourth place.

Alesi had arrived into 1990 and his first full season in the sport as a hot property. His stock only rose further with a marvellous second place in the season opener at Phoenix. There, he famously given the McLaren-Honda of Ayrton Senna a real run for his money.

In Monaco, he threw his Tyrrell around the track, pushing his car to the limit and benefiting from the fact that the engine deficiencies in his car weren’t as evident. He qualified an amazing third and remained in the podium positions all afternoon.

When compatriot Alain Prost retired his Ferrari with battery problems, Alesi moved into second place and closed down on Senna in the final laps. It was an amazing show from the Frenchman in his first-ever Monaco race.

What Happened Next

Despite his failure to add to his points tally after Monaco, Alesi was signed by Ferrari for the following season. The Frenchman would spent five years with the Scuderia and would go to famously win the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix.

Stefano Modena – 1991 Monaco Grand Prix

Stefano Modena leaves the Lowes hairpin in the Tyrrell 020 during the 1991 Monaco Grand Prix. Image sourced from @f1_old via Twitter.

A year later,  Tyrrell were at it again in Monaco with Alesi’s replacement, Stefano Modena. The Italian had shown flashes of promise at Brabham and was hoping his move to Tyrrell would unlock that potential.

In Monaco, he was sensational and qualified on the front row of the grid and even received acclaim from Monaco expert, Ayrton Senna.

In the race, he was running well and held off the faster Williams of Riccardo Patrese. However, on Lap 42, Modena’s engine exploded on the exit of the tunnel and caused an oil spill. Subsequently, Patrese also spun in the barriers.

It was a cruel way to end a weekend, where Modena had surprised everyone with his speed and precision.

What Happened Next

At the next race in Canada, Modena made up for this and finished second for Tyrrell.

Modena would the 1991 season in tenth place, and joined a young Jordan team for 1992.

Olivier Panis – 1996 Monaco Grand Prix

Olivier Panis parks his Ligier JS43 in Parc Ferme after winning the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix from 14th on the grid. Image sourced from maxf1.net

Olivier Panis arrived in Monaco in 1996 with just one point to his name in the world championship and under pressure to deliver.

This showed qualifying as the Frenchman qualified a lowly 14th position. However, on race day, Panis’ performance was extraordinary.

In difficult conditions, Panis showed overtaking was possible by got past Jordan’s Martin Brundle and the McLaren of Mika Hakkinen. Ligier then pitted him early for slick tyres and vaulted up to fourth as a result.

A collision with Eddie Irvine at the tight Lowes hairpin on Lap 36 put Panis into the podium spots. Then, only four laps later, Damon Hill’s Williams blew up and promoted Panis into second behind Jean Alesi.

When Alesi’s Benetton stopped with a wheel bearing problem on Lap 61, Panis inherited the lead. He then showed great class to hold off a late charge from David Coulthard and record a monumental win for Ligier.

The victory would be the last for the famous French outfit, and the first for Mugen-Honda as an engine supplier.

In a race where only four cars were classified as running at the finish, Panis had produced the drive of his life. With some great skill and luck, he remains one of the most surprising winners of the Monaco Grand Prix.

What Happened Next

Despite Ligier’s mediocre 1996 campaign, Olivier Panis would eventually finish ninth in the standings. He stayed on with the team as they were renamed Prost Grand Prix for 1997.

Panis would record two more podiums in Brazil and Spain, and was up to fourth in Drivers’ standings. However, a heavy crash in Canada broke both his legs and hampered what looked to be a promising career in Formula 1.

Rubens Barrichello – 1997 Monaco Grand Prix

Rubens Barrichello negotiates the wet conditions during the 1997 Monaco Grand Prix in the Stewart SF01. © Empics Sport

The new Stewart team arrived in Monaco for the 1997 event after a difficult start to life in Formula 1. In just four races, the team had seven retirements, as a lack of reliability harmed their results.

Brazilian Rubens Barrichello demonstrated this as he qualified tenth in a sunny qualifying session. In contrast, the streets of Monaco were very wet  come race day.

On the opening lap, he’d moved into fifth place. By Lap 12, he’d passed Williams’ Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jordan’s Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella, to move into second.

On a day where Michael Schumacher dismantled the field, Barrichello put in a similarly sensational drive. This time, the Ford engine held together, as Rubens claimed the team’s first-ever points and podium in second.

The result brought team owners Jackie and Paul Stewart to tears. After a scintillating performance, Barrichello had shown the world how good he really was in changeable conditions.

The result was also one of the most surprising result of the entire 1997 season.

What Happened Next

No more points followed for Barrichello in 1997. He managed just one more finish at Monza, baring the brunt of Stewart’s technical problems.

Barrichello spent two more years with Stewart and claimed three more podiums for the team. In 2000, he joined Michael Schumacher at Ferrari in a historic period of dominance.

Mika Salo – 1998 Monaco Grand Prix

Mika Salo at the Loews hairpin aboard the Arrows A19 during the 1998 Monaco Grand Prix. Image Sourced from Pinterest.

Two weeks earlier, Arrows suffered a simultaneous double engine failure in Barcelona. Bizarrely, Mika Salo and Pedro Diniz stopped at the same point of the circuit just past the pit lane.

Throughout 1998, chronic reliability problems, an evil handling chassis and instability within the Leafield team, meant they were in real trouble.

Salo though was always inspired in Monaco and his finest day at Monte Carlo came in 1998. He somehow managed to qualify eighth on the grid and maintained his grid position off the start.

Salo stayed out of the barriers on a day where Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Michael Schumacher and Alexander Wurz didn’t. He finished a stunning fourth and was only eight seconds behind Eddie Irvine’s Ferrari at the finish.

It was a terrific performance from the Finn and with Diniz’s sixth place, it was a marvellous day for Arrows.

What Happened Next

Monaco was the high of the season for Salo and the Arrows team. Apart from an impressive sixth in a wet qualifying session in Austria, he struggled for the remainder of 1998.

For 1999, Salo lost his seat to Tora Takagi. However, the Finn went on to make sporadic appearances for debutantes BAR and Ferrari.

Eddie Irvine – 2001 Monaco Grand Prix

The Jaguar R2 of Eddie Irvine at the Nouvelle Chicane during the 2001 Monaco Grand Prix. Image sourced from clubeaurouge.com

The Jaguar R2 was a difficult car to setup but was also one of Eddie Irvine’s better seasons. Having looked a demoralised character throughout much of 2000, Irvine put in some good displays in 2001.

It all came together for the Ulsterman in Monaco and hauled his Jaguar to sixth on the grid. He lost a place off the line to Juan Pablo Montoya, who shortly crashed into the barriers on Lap 3.

Mika Hakkinen’s early retirement moved Irvine to fourth and he kept the other Williams of Ralf Schumacher honest all afternoon.

A late hydraulics failure for the younger Schumacher allowed Irvine to move into third place. Despite a late charge from the BAR of Jacques Villeneuve, he held on to take Jaguar’s first-ever F1 podium.

As a result, Irvine was joined on the rostrum with his former team-mates, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello.

What Happened Next

Only one more points finish for Irvine in 2001 courtesy of a fifth place in the United States. Throughout the season, he recorded 11 retirements, most of which were caused through reliability issues.

Irvine would spend one more season at Jaguar, before he retired at the end of the 2002 season.

Jarno Trulli – 2004 Monaco Grand Prix

Jarno Trulli leads teammate Fernando Alonso in the early stages of the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix. This would turn out to be Trulli’s only F1 victory. Image sourced from @RetroRacingCo via Twitter.

Italy’s Jarno Trulli would only win one race in his entire career. Yet, it was the race all drivers dreamed of winning – Monaco.

Trulli was in the zone all weekend, producing the best performance of his career in qualifying to take pole.

On the race start, Trulli had stormed into an early lead. However, he would drop behind the dominant Ferrari of Michael Schumacher.

The Safety Car was brought out after his Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso crashed in the tunnel. Then, Schumacher crashed into the barriers after being hit by Juan Pablo Montoya.

Consequently, Trulli was back in control of the race. He then held off pressure from BAR’s Jenson Button to claim the win. In doing do, Trulli briefly ended Schumacher’s winning streak in 2004.

What Happened Next

After Monaco, Jarno Trulli’s season would begin to fall apart. An error on the final lap of the French Grand Prix, cost him third place to Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello.

This caused tension to developed between himself and Team Principal Flavio Briatore. Despite a second pole position at Spa-Francorchamps, Trulli was dropped before the end of the season and joined Toyota.

David Coulthard – 2006 Monaco Grand Prix

David Coulthard on the podium after the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix, alongside race winner Fernando Alonso (left) and Renault Team Principal Flavio Briatore. © Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull Racing’s 2006 season had its challenges, but their package clicked into the right place in Monaco.

David Coulthard, two-time race winner in the Principality, started seventh on the grid. The Scotsman could have started higher, had he not been blocked in qualifying by Giancarlo Fisichella’s Renault.

An inspired decision to switch strategy to a one-stop early on saved Coulthard’s afternoon. This was despite him being trapped in traffic for much of the race.

Several retirements took place over the course of the race, as Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen both experienced engine failures. In addition, Red Bull team-mate Christian Klien and Toyota’s Jarno Trulli also failed to make the finish.

These factors allowed DC to come through and claim Red Bull’s first-ever podium finish. It was his first since leaving McLaren and donned a red Superman cape as he collected a well-earned trophy.

What Happened Next

Coulthard would achieved three more points in finishes in Hungary, the US and Canada before the close of 2006. DC would stay with Red Bull for two more seasons, before he retired at the end of the 2008 season.

Jules Bianchi – 2014 Monaco Grand Prix

Jules Bianchi’s Marussia MR03 climbs up the hill towards Massenet at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix. Image sourced from Autosport.

Jules Bianchi lined up last of 22 runners for Marrussia in the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix. This Frenchman had collected a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change earlier in the weekend.

On Sunday afternoon, Bianchi drove superbly. Despite receiving a five-second time penalty during the race for a pit-lane offence, the Frenchman was in contention for points. This was helped by a stunning overtake on the Caterham of Kamui Kobayashi at La Rascasse.

Bianchi initially crossed the line in eighth position, with the penalty ultimately dropping him to ninth behind Romain Grosjean’s Lotus. Nevertheless, it produced scenes of euphoria in the Marussia pits.

Bianchi’s success also signalled Marussia’s first championship points since 2010 debut as Virgin Racing. It was one of the high points of 2014 and another great underdog story in Monaco’s history.

What happened next

Tragically, this would prove to be Bianchi’s only points finish in his short F1 career. On the October 5th, 2014, he crashed into a recovery vehicle during the wet Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Bianchi entered a lengthy induced coma with severe head injuries. Sadly, he would pass away in his hometown of Nice in July 2015, at aged just 25. He was the first driver in 21 years to lose their life due to an F1-related accident.

Sergio Perez – 2016 Monaco Grand Prix

Sergio Perez celebrates his third place in the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix with the Force India team. © Sutton Images

Force India and in particular, Sergio Perez, developed a habit of being in the right place at the right time. He made the most of this in 2016 to take an unexpected, but richly deserved podium position.

Perez started eighth and three places behind his Force India team-mate, Nico Hulkenberg. The Mexican reacted brilliantly to the changing conditions with perfectly timed strategy calls. As a result, Perez was able to leapfrog Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari in the pit-stops.

Alongside Nico Rosberg’s baffling lack of pace in the all-conquering Mercedes, this put Perez into contention for a podium finish. He held off Vettel to take Force India’s fourth F1 podium and his third for the team.

What happened next

Another podium followed for Sergio Perez just two races later in Baku. Perez finished 2016 seventh in the championship, after producing one of his strongest F1 seasons.

Monaco always has an element where the unexpected can happen and these examples prove it.

Red Bull and Ferrari have triumphed here in recent seasons. However, you’d have to say that anything other than another Mercedes victory, would be a major surprise this weekend.

For more from Simon Wright, you can follow him on Twitter @Siwri88